Leadership is a constant conversation. Think about how you spend your day. Most leaders spend their day in team and 1:1 meetings, conference calls, responding to emails, texts and phone calls, strategic communication and the list goes on. Nothing happens without the effective exchange of essential information, ideas and direction. Nothing great anyway. If you’re leading, then you’re communicating. Here are the critical questions:
Communication can be defined as the process by which information is exchanged between individuals or by which thoughts, ideas or feelings are expressed.
Unfortunately, many leaders never seriously take inventory of whether or not they are really communicating effectively. They fail to be intentional about critical conversations and instead make deadly leadership assumptions. The most common assumption I hear from clients is, “My people know what I expect from them. I’ve told them a million times”.
If this is true, then why are leaders consistently frustrated and not seeing the results they expect? There can be a myriad of reasons for poor performance and frustration, but usually at the core is a fundamental breakdown of effective communication.
Here are 3 simple but effective steps to ensure that your conversations count. Use these steps to direct your thoughts and your approach to critical conversations.
1. Increase understanding and buy-in
Great leaders and communicators quickly asses the hearers understanding and buy-in, often just by asking. This is vastly different than you making a point. To achieve buy-in there needs to be a back-and-forth conversation where both parties agree on the goals and outcomes. Not a one-way tongue lashing. Understanding means, they are on board and can repeat back to you the essential parts of the agreement.
2. Achieve the desired outcome
The key point here is that it’s the leaders’ responsibility to be intentional about deciding the outcome, communicating it at the start of the conversation and making sure you both agree. “Hey Sarah, I have a great idea and I’m almost certain sure it will work. I’d like to run it by you to see if I’ve missed anything”. Or, “Hey William, the reason for this meeting is I’ve got to give you some difficult feedback and I’m hoping you can receive it and we can create next steps”. Establish a mutually understood goal for the conversation and stick to it!
3. Improve the Relationship
Each interaction should have at its core a deep desire to walk away with the relationship improved or at least intact. If you keep this as a goal, you’re far more likely to remain professional and respectful, even if the conversation is a sharp disagreement. Many leaders are so focused on results they overlook this critical component. A stronger relationship leads to a more engaged team member who in turn produces more sustainable results over the long term.